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Kubi moves collaboration into e-mail

Apr 21, 20033 mins
Collaboration SoftwareEnterprise ApplicationsSmall and Medium Business

Start-up’s client software lets teams work together without leaving e-mail.

LINCOLN, MASS. – Start-up Kubi Software next week will release its first product: add-on software that turns popular e-mail clients into collaboration environments.

Kubi Client works within Microsoft Outlook 2000 and 2002 or Lotus Notes versions 5 and 6. It lets users create Kubi Spaces, a series of collaborative folders that support document sharing, discussions, group calendars, contact lists and project timelines.

Analysts and vendors recently have been promoting contextual collaboration, which is the ability to add collaborative components into other applications. While vendors such as Lotus and Microsoft have been talking about adding those components into applications such as CRM, Kubi has targeted the most popular application in use.

Microsoft and Lotus provide some collaborative features such as sharing of calendars and contact lists, but their e-mail clients primarily are designed to send, receive and store e-mail.

The key to Kubi is that it offers users a more sophisticated set of collaborative features without leaving their comfort zone: e-mail. It also allows collaboration among Outlook and Notes users.

“We know people use e-mail,” says Shabbir Safdar, a Kubi beta tester and CTO of Mindshare Internet Campaigns, a communications firm that builds online campaigns for clients that lobby legislators or the public. “We’ve had a much harder time getting people to an extranet site to do collaboration.”

Safdar says he has been searching for five years to find the right collaboration product.

“The challenge is not the technology, it’s the adoption process. Building collaboration into Outlook means I don’t have to train users on a new application. They are much more comfortable just exploring how to use a new feature,” he says. Safdar points to the discussion form used by Kubi. “It looks just like a new mail message in Outlook. That alone saves about an hour of training,” he says.

Users can start a Kubi Space with one click and, using their e-mail addresses, invite team members to join. Once users are invited, Kubi synchronizes data between team members and across both Outlook and Notes clients. Synchronization takes place via the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol, and all data is encrypted. Users can set up Kubi home pages in Outlook that display all their collaborative in-boxes and their regular e-mail in-boxes. The company is developing support for the Notes version of the home-page feature.

“I’m bullish on Kubi because our focus groups have shown that 90% to 95% of collaboration is still done in e-mail,” says Robert Mahowald, research manager at IDC. “For people looking to extend their existing infrastructure this is a good product.”

Kubi Client, which is a 3M-byte download, faces competition from Zaplet’s Zaplet 3 and AppMail’s AppMail.

In the fall, Kubi plans to add a server that will give corporations control over Kubi Client. The server would provide centralized storage of Kubi Spaces, policy controls and archiving capabilities. Kubi also plans to provide Web browser access for Kubi users.

Kubi, which runs on Windows only, is priced at $149 per copy. The company will offer volume discounts.